Jay Hancock's Blog: Does BGE restore power to big shots first?

August 30, 2011|By Jay Hancock

If I were the boss of Baltimore Gas & Electric I would be tempted to set up a secret plan to treat Very Important Neighborhoods differently than those of the plebes. Did the governor's lights go off? Put him at the top of the list for repair.

No, wait. Put the members of the Public Service Commission first. They're the ones who will approve or reject the application by BGE parent Constellation Energy to merge with Exelon. They're the ones who are developing reliablity standards for BGE and other utilities. Naturally I asked BGE whether it gives special treatment to important public officials. And I asked the governor, the mayor and the PSC commissioners about their electricity experiences last weekend during the hurricane.

BGE denies giving special attention to anybody. "The answer is no," says company spokesman Rob Gould. "We are not putting anyone in any priority order as it relates to special customers."

What about PSC Chairman Doug Nazarian? He tells me his power was back on by Sunday afternoon. (As I write this Tuesday evening, about 200,000 BGE homes still lack power, according to the company's storm-center Web site.) "We don't even know his address," Gould said. "We don't mark neighborhoods for special folks."

Gov. Martin O'Malley's power flickered on and off but never went totally out, said spokeswoman Raquel Guillory. Two PSC members -- Lawrence Brenner and Kevin Hughes -- live in Pepco territory, which was hit much less heavily by Irene. They said they didn't lose electricity, either. I was unable to get responses from the PSC's Harold Williams and Kelly Speakes-Backman. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake lost power for "over 24 hours," said spokesman Ryan O'Doherty, but she wasn't sure when it came back on because she was in the city's emergency operations center. "She did have to throw out food," O'Doherty said. (For the record, my power in Ellicott City never went out.)

Here is the response from PSC Chairman Nazarian, who says he has "no idea" whether his neighborhood gets special treatment from BGE:

My power went out sometime Saturday night and came back on late Sunday afternoon. We plugged our refrigerator into a neighbor's generator for a while, but did throw out some spoiled food, too. A large tree branch fell in my front yard, but missed our house and the neighbors', so fortunately no impact. We haven't had water in our basement for years and didn't this time. I have no idea whether my neighborhood is tagged. By coincidence, our utility accounts are in my wife's name (they have been since we moved to Catonsville in 1999, and maybe all along), and we did not call in the outage ourselves (we were in Boston on Saturday night and Sunday for a family bat mitzvah, so we were not in town to call it in).

And we certainly have never asked for special treatment -- in fact, when our Peak Rewards thermostat didn't come back on right away in July, we got a repair appointment six days out, so we clearly weren't flagged there.

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